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COOPS Weekly - Life from Kansas #44

Updated: Nov 9, 2023

We have tornado warnings in Kansas (that's a first for me)

...all inmates were sent back to their units to hold tight. But the weather is something that leads to the hot topic right now for the inmates and some of the staff. I get it...I never once thought about inmates or prisons until I got here. I know for most of you I am the first friend you have had that went to prison (big honor). I know the vast majority of people don't care about prisons or people in them.... But if you saw this place, you be is falling apart. With 100% certainty if this place was anything other than a prison it would be condemned. If I listed all the things wrong with this place It would take an entire newsletter. There is water dripping from the ceiling everywhere. Certain parts of the camp you can’t walk down for fear of the roof collapsing (that is not exaggeration). There is mold, bacteria, asbestos, and lead paint in almost every room. The sewers are backed up, the showers/bathrooms are for the most part barely working. Water plus tile floors equal people falling and getting hurt. I have personally seen three people fall and injure themselves in the kitchen. There injuries ended up being minor, but all of us kept saying sooner or later someone is going to get seriously hurt.

Craziest thing I have seen or heard @ Leavenworth.

Fast forward to today. An inmate in RDAP (one of the cooks) ... was walking down the hall and slipped on the wet floor and shattered his elbow. SHATTERED. It was awful, he flew up in the air and landed on his elbow. His injury is severe so hopefully he will eventually go to hospital...but nothing will change...the puddles are still everywhere.... Lawsuit waiting to happen.

There is nothing like facing prison as motive to get your shit together. When I was first charged, I was the heaviest (weight wise) I had ever been in my life. I also was taking a ton of pain pills (something that has been a reoccurring problem for me). While I was on pretrial, I made it my mission to get in shape/get healthy. I ran two stationary bikes into the ground biking 4-6 hours a day. I ran several 10K's, and a 15K. I bought a heavy bag (sparring) for cardio and turned my parent’s guestroom/garage into a fitness center. I lost a ton of weight (all it took was a criminal trial with my freedom on the line to finally get motivated to lose weight). The stress of trial, having a plea deal pulled by the prosecution (I was offered probation 14 months into pretrial, then the prosecution pulled the offer without explanation), trial, then subsequent plea, was some of the most brutal stretch of life I had ever faced. I got super depressed and I avoided most of the people I care about. If you didn't reach out to me then we didn't talk.

As a rule, I try to never underestimate what people know. Especially your friends. People talk, and things get out. I guess I thought everyone would hear about my legal situation.... after all anyone with a federal charge gets plastered all over the news (I mean my situation should be pretty fascinating talk).

Well with what went down in my trial neither my name or picture made any news cycle. I'm sure there is information on me but not like most of the other people at the camp. This became a big issue for me. Since there wasn't much information on my trial/charges should I tell everyone or should I try and keep it a secret? The advice I received from other inmates was keep quiet. I couldn't imagine keeping it a secret...I don't want to live that life...Also I'm not going lie by omission. But I was hoping that some of the people who did not know would get to hear it from person...when I got out.

Ultimately people did find out.... This past week in fact pretty much anyone who didn't know about my incarceration's now does.

I have thought a lot about why I didn't tell everyone prior to getting to Kansas (LPC camp) and the best explanation I have come up with is I was deeply embarrassed, and I didn't want to deal with anything. When I knew, I was going to jail I just shut down. I wish I would have handled it better. I have had more time to reflect on the mistakes I have made in my past. That has been the one saving grace about prison. It gives you plenty of time to reflect.

What a week. Here is the rundown:

Somehow, I got a hernia. Most likely from working out or unloading the food trucks (Although I really don't know). Here is the problem I face. I only have about a month left at LPC and although it is no fun, If I push to get it fixed, then I will be put on what is called a "medical hold," and cannot leave until I am better. Nothing moves fast here. There are people here that have been waiting years for surgeries/procedures, etc. One inmate has been waiting over 9 months for an MRI for torn biceps. He has literally been in a sling for 4 months. It would take months for me to POSSIBLY see a specialist...No thank you I am not going to get stuck staying here another 6-8 months. I basically was shown how to "pop," it back in and I will fix it when I get out. I will be limited the last month in what I can do, but that's fine. Another fellow inmate has a hernia also and is waiting to get it fixed when he is out. No good options on this one....

Big week on people getting sent to the SHU. Every week there is the possibility something might go wrong in RDAP and programming will be suspended. We have had new leaders put into place, since a good many of us our graduating. Also, the head of RDAP (from central office) came to the camp and wanted big changes. One of our new leaders (they are now called MENTORS) was accused of taking a trip on his furlough to get alcohol so he has been sent to SHU. An investigation was opened into his trip so it is a big deal (you can possibly get new charges). Since he is one of our new leaders it is not a good look (although he was chosen by the DTS staff, not the inmates...which is kind of the problem...the inmates should choose our own leaders, we might be better equipped to pick those people since we are with them 24/7). Lots of inmates have gone to bat for him, hopefully he comes out unscathed.

Another one of my favorite people here also got sent to the SHU. It also had to do with a furlough although in his case I don't think he did anything wrong. Whenever you leave the compound, you need to be extra careful. You are monitored in everything/everywhere you go (if you are on the investigation staffs radar you need to be perfect). If you have a doctor’s appointment you cannot be late. In his case the Lieutenant accused him of missing a doctor’s. appt. which he claims is not the case (he says he went and saw the Doctor which should be easy to prove) .... also, he claims to have other COs to back him up. But he is under investigation so it will take a while to sort things out. Once you’re in prison you are guilty until proven innocent, not the other way around (although I would argue that the whole "innocent until proven guilty," mantra we live by is a complete farce)

My bunkmate’s name is RED Skywalker Suppa (what a killer name.... I got his permission to write this story). He transferred here from Arizona to take RDAP only to find he didn't qualify (how that isn't known before transferring someone is a mystery). Anyway, he is here and making the best of it. He came from Oregon (good basketball player). Obviously from the name you can tell he is native American (part of a tribe). Native Americans are allowed to practice their religious beliefs (customs) here. When I first got here there was another inmate who built an Indian hut and used to have huge bonfires. I remember walking the compound and almost throwing up every time I passed his bonfires because he would burn incense (or other stuff??). I was detoxing so all my senses were on overload, so the smell was super intense. Anyway, he got busted with a phone so he was shipped out to another prison. Well anyway RED has been advocating to build something that was part of his tradition.

So, he recently built what is called a "sweat lodge." It is basically a tent that turns into a sauna. Him and a few other inmates use it to sweat out the toxins.

This past Friday we had our 2nd Jeopardy game show contest. The teams are broken up by process groups. Most of the people I have gotten close with are either in Katz A (Me, Goetz, Jones, & Kemp) or Katz B (Newling, Hinton). The Jeopardy topics are based off RDAP Knowledge (various terms, definitions, and concepts). The study guide for the RDAP material is 16 pages long (it is a lot). It is basically 9 Journals worth of material (the journals are about 30-45 pages long). When I thought, we were going to get tested (even though technically we are not supposed to get tested) I pretty much memorized all the material. I wanted to go into the test and ace it. It was suggested in our process group that it would be entertaining for a few of us to go up against the DTS's (staff vs inmates on who knows the RDAP info best). I would like that. There is nobody that could beat me head-to-head on the material. The combined Katz groups scored the most points. Newling, Jones, I and got our questions right whenever we were first up to respond. People take it seriously and get into it. Answering questions in front of 72 other inmates while you are being heckled is actually pretty hard. Your mind can go blank. Regardless it was fun.

So, The First Step Act Approved Programs (so classes/programs that are supposed to offered at prisons) guide was made available to us this past week. The cover page states the following:

"The federal Bureau of Prisons protects public safety by ensuring those in federal custody receive relevant and meaningful reentry programing to support their return to the community as law abiding citizens. Reentry efforts increase opportunities, reduce recidivism, promote public safety, and reduce institution misconduct (yeah right!!!!). To this end, the bureau is committed to provide a robust menu of programs to address thirteen need areas for a diverse population, located in 122 institutions if varying security levels across the nation."

Wow...I cannot imagine a falser statement. The FSA is a law. The FSA law was signed into law on 12/21/2018, and directed the Bureau to offer relevant and meaningful re-entry programming to support a successful reentry into society. CMON!!! Leavenworth offers 3 classes here (out of over 45 classes that are supposed to be offered). If it wasn't for Mr. Petersen and myself (much more Petersen who has been here longer) there wouldn't be any classes. We are supposed to be offered opportunities so that we can receive consideration for financial awards or proffered housing. I have taken every class available and I will exceed the 100-hour threshold in a landslide (mostly because of RDAP) ... so supposedly I should receive additional consideration. There is nobody here to even evaluate/decide if I should receive additional consideration (the case managers/councilors laughed at us and told us this is never happening when we asked about this).

Here are a few areas that are not being followed:

1.) They claim we have over 76 RDAP locations out of 70 Camps (it is more like 20 for both men and women...Based on why inmates are told they have been transferred to Kansas we are the closest RDAP for anyone who lives California...Camps in Oregon, Arizona, and other Western states appear to have been shut down).

2.) The BOP claims there are over 45 classes offered at every institution (we offer 3 classes total). So, is it a staff shortage? NO... we have multiple staff CO's who work in education. None of them teach any classes which is a requirement in order for most classes to be taught. We barely offer GED courses for people. There are inmates who have been waiting months to try and get their GED or take tests to pass GED requirements (math, algebra).

3.) Productive activities are also supposed to be offered. These programs promote productivity (teams, sports, faith, etc.). Leavenworth offers 0 ZERO opportunities in this area. The inmates organize church and AA.

Frustrating. Its 2023. The First Step Act (FSA) law went into effect 5 years ago and little has been accomplished in that time frame. I can’t imagine many areas in society where they would put up with this kind of government inaction.

Oh yeah, our counselor is still MIA (it is been over a month).

Miss everyone. Stay Safe

Weekly newsletter.week 44
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